Dreams of Nigerians to own homes through housing agencies may have dimmed, following inadequate funding, political tinkering orchestrated by greed and corruption of the leadership in states.
The state housing agencies say, the option for their becoming the engine room of economic development is restructuring by way of organizational and financial structural changes.
The creation of these housing corporations by the then regional governments prior to independence marked the beginning of the creation of modern housing estates throughout the country.
The effect of the housing corporations were further widened with the establishment in 1964 of the Association of Housing Corporations of Nigeria (AHCN), whose main objective is to ensure the increased availability of dwelling houses and the development of housing industry.
This structure ultimately became a focal point within which the first housing policy of 1990 was formulated and subsequent policies are being implemented.
These housing agencies located in each state of the federation, were statutorily created to execute public housing programmes for each state of the federation based on the formulated housing policies.
Essentially, they are to undertake the development of estates by acquiring, developing, holding, managing, selling, leasing or letting any property movable or unmovable in their respective states.
They were also charged with providing a home ownership saving scheme in respect of any housing estate or building owned, constructed and managed by them with a view to enabling members of the public purchase or build their own houses as well as sites and services scheme for residential, commercial and industrial purposes for the people of their respective states.
AHCN also construct and maintain modern dwelling houses at reasonable costs for sales to members of the public; undertake the construction of offices, commercial and industrial buildings for letting out to members of the public among other things and engage in other investment activities and opportunities as may be determined by the respective state governments.
But since its creation, a lot have changed.
The Guardian investigations revealed that most of the state housing agencies are under-utilized, rendered redundant and could hardly carry out their primary responsibility as elaborated in the respective laws setting up these agencies.
The challenges, it was gathered are ONE: Usurpation of the statutory responsibility of housing corporations in housing construction and development by supervising ministries who engage in direct construction instead of their primary role to formulate policy and monitor its parastatals to ensure policy compliance and accomplishment.
With this, housing corporations are neglected and starved of funds.
When these housing corporations decide to source funds, the required backing from the state government is not always there as laws establishing the corporations require executive government backing with approval of the state house of assembly.
In some cases, parallel organizations are set up under the governor’s office to package public private partnership on behalf of the state and when housing corporations come up with such package, they would be denied all necessary support to make such PPP to work.
And where support was granted, there were usually over-pricing of such projects to take care of the interest of the political leaders as well as diversion of funds, which make final product of the project unaffordable.
TWO: In states where housing corporations are utilized for housing production, Political interference with activities of the agencies usually result in their ineffectiveness which grossly in most cases affect on-going projects.
THREE: Lack of total independence to execute projects professionally and most housing corporations even collect their salaries from the state ministries and the introduction of Treasury Single Account has rendered most of these corporation redundant.
FOUR: In virtually all the housing corporations, there are no financial support in terms of seed funding to assist state Housing Corporations to take off project execution.
FIVE: Lack of government support in terms of provision of infrastructural facilities in most housing estates, which often increase the cost of completed housing units.
SIX: Withdrawal of some state governments from the National Housing Fund contribution which put Housing Corporations of such States at disadvantage in accessing estate development loans from the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN).
“Today, most of these housing corporations merely exist by names. In some states, they are rendered irrelevant in their special field while state ministries have taken over construction and in some states they have been merged with the ministries.
This situation has relegated housing development to the background and hardly can we see any state government today that categorize housing as priority and major cardinal focus unlike in the second republic, according to AHCN immediate past president, Dr. Ifenna Chukwujekwu.
He said: “The recent shift of housing provision through government policy of total withdrawal from direct construction introduced by the Obasanjo regime did not help matter as the private developers were unable to meet the housing demand of the people.
This situation has further widened the rising housing shortage in Nigeria.”
Chukwujekwu explained that all the edict that established most of the housing corporations are outdated.
“For these corporations to be effective, these outdated laws and edicts require urgent and immediate amendments.”
He said: “Provision should be made to commercialize these housing corporations with full autonomy to make them more dynamic and productive.”
AHCN Executive Secretary, Toye Eniola told The Guardian that the housing corporations remain the only body that can solve Nigerian housing deficit.
“The public and private sector driven mass housing provision have been experimented and tested over years and it has been proven that public sector driven housing provision through housing corporations are equal to the task of developing mass housing given the right atmosphere,” he said
According to him, “housing challenge of most of our state capitals,especially during creation of new states were effectively resolved by housing corporations and it is most evident in most state capitals with popular and established housing estates.
“Housing corporations are government parastatals with access to government land, which place them at vantage position to execute government housing scheme.
He stated that private developers are high profit driven and they prefer middle and high-income housing projects, which are easier to dispose to recoup their investment in a short while, which invariably does not favour the low income group because of affordability question.